A Variation in The Serenity Prayer

Deyva Arthur

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Prayer from AA)

“Grant me the serenity.”

Can I ask for that? 

My peace is buried under experience and questions.

It is a thing that disappears when I look directly, 

and reveals itself when I turn away.

Like a hand gentle on my shoulder,

from somewhere a whisper

“to grant yourself serenity – yes.”

 

The violence, the misunderstanding,

I cannot change.

Or the mistakes I made

three days ago when I said those things.

The DNA that makes me seem different to you.

And how hard the world shakes 

something so fragile it breaks.

There is no stopping the declaration of my body,

growing up, growing old. 

These things shriek at me until 

I “accept the things I cannot change”

and I become the rock in the stream,

steadfast while the rapids flow by.

 

Reaching deep, can I conjure

the courage to change my ways?

Take hold with both hands 

my hunger, relentless, demonic,

and bring it up close to my face. 

To stop my own noise and really hear

what you are saying to me.

How much bravery do I need

to voice dissent, start a new politic?

To show myself with all my odd shapes and colors.

With slow steps I descend into the cave 

to find a diamond made from unbearable pressure.

It is the “courage to change the things I can.”

 

When I have done a little thing,

that small effort, even though it is 

only a half turn of the screw,

it is some movement to see.

A small blossom of knowing buds.

I learn the difference between

how much to water the delicate plant

and when to let the sun help it grow.

It is then, I feel I have taken a breath of

“wisdom to know the difference.”

Deyva Arthur

Deyva Arthur is: photographer, writer, mother, activist, child, lover, forever trying to understand. She has received awards for her writings and photography of the human story to capture the quiet beauty of everyday life.

Deyva has been a journalist, photographer, editor, housing organizer, environmental researcher, counselor for refugees, the mentally ill, and the homeless, a secretary, construction worker, and sheep farmer.

 

Zinnias in a time of plague

Robert L. Bangert-Drowns

I am growing envious of gardens.

I observe their close associations,

Carnivals of color, vivid rioting 

Declaiming nothing but their simple selves, 

Their mindful drunkenness revealing

An ecstatic, shared variety.

In a desert of humanity, they oasis me.

 

I cannot keep my eyes from blossoms.

Mute and rooted, still they startle

With vivacious and inscrutable displays,

And tripping with their stalks and lights, 

I cannot shake the notion they,

Not me, parade in motley motion, they,

Not me, escape in whimsied skip.

 

I am bound by mask, my hothouse breath

A stinking stifle and a steaming vapor.

These blossoms have undone the bud,

Unfurled like butterflies from chrysalis.

And bee and hummingbird attend

Their inward love and invitation, touch

Of stamen, stigma, nectar, and a restless sex.

 

That I might stand so close among my comrades,

That I might mimic my companions with such giddiness,

Savor sun and breeze, unfettered freedom,  

Find my nudity is just this beautiful, as the bare-faced

Honesty and laughter of my friends.  There is no

Contagion in these flowers, only little particles 

Of pollen scattering in generation.  I inhale.

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Robert Bangert-Drowns has served on the faculty of UAlbany’s School of Education for 35 years. His background sits at the intersection of psychology and mental health, education for higher order cognition, and information technologies. He most recently is exploring human capacities to gain personal insights by understanding and embracing their experiences from multiple perspectives.

He grew up in rural Rockland County, New York and studied at Georgetown University and the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. He is author of innumerable poems in many different styles and sees them as opportunities for psychological and spiritual self-reflection akin to music.

 

Resilience

Melinda Bruno-Smith

I sit


In the center of the room

 

With eyes closed

 

The walls begin to crumble

 

Around me

 

I hear

 

Cries, anguish

 

My heart aches

 

For comfort and openness

 

I pray

 

My breath leads me

 

To a quiet emptiness

 

A stillness

 

Which allows me

 

To hear my own heart

 

I breathe

 

Sitting there

 

Without walls

 

Under an open sky

 

Time passes

 

And then

 

I rise up

 

Look around

 

And reach for the first hand

 

That will have me

 

Together

 

We stand

 

And join

 

The many

 

Whose hands and hearts

 

Unite around us

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Melinda Bruno-Smith

Ironically, Covid Quarantine provided me with the opportunity to slow down, pursue personal interests, and be available for my family.  I continue to work as photographer, poet, yoga instructor, deacon, gardener, wife, auntie, and head home chef.  I feel fortunate.

 

New normal

Phyllis Carito

It’s about canceled until further notice.  

 

It’s about your smile lost under the mask 

the touch of your hand on my shoulder 

for comfort or task 

It’s about your hug suspended in air 

6 feet away. 

 

It’s about the canceled poetry class in Maine,  

the plays at Shakespeare & Company,  

the summer concert at Tanglewood, and all these 

experiences missed, 

 

never our friendship. 

 

 

It’s about call ahead, pick up at the curb. 

 

It’s about limited numbers in limited places 

the space between keeping us safe -- 

but there are fires everywhere --  

It’s about old hurt, pain and worry 

all around us 

 

It’s about the black youth shot on the street, 

the immigrant children huddled in lockdown, 

the police to protect and support  

battering and pummeling 

 

but everyone just wanting peace. 

 

 

It’s about canceled until further notice 

 

It’s about uncertain tomorrows 

held in a holding pattern 

postponed vacations, lost jobs  

swirling minds conjuring a new normal 

while lingering in a void 

 

It’s about Zooming with family 

caring for one another 

planting a garden  

adopting a pet 

 

grasping for your ikigai* 

*Japanese for reason to live, life realizations 

 of hopes and expectations.

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Phyllis Carito

Publication highlights two chapbooks, barely a whisper and The Stability of Trees in Winds of Grief, and a novel, Worn Masks. Other published work appeared in Passager Journal, Inkwell Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Fired Up! and Vermont Literary Review.  Currently is working on a short story collection.  

 

Love in a Time of Coronavirus

Alan Catlin

Before the inevitable

days of judgment,

 

reckoning 

with Death,

 

the fear of mortality

is a stimulant

like no other-

 

a prime motivator

for love ,

 

for exuberant lust

in all those 

heat stifled nights

 

free floating,

miles from shore,

 

a yellow cross

painted on

our bow;

 

no land ahoy

for us to step 

out on

 

Love each other

while you can,

 

we think,

 

the universal 

virus is

among us

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Alan Catlin attended workshops at the NYS Writers Institute held by John Montague, Lydia Davis, Le Ann Schreiber and Ed Sanders. His most recent books of poetry include Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh (Dos Madres), Lessons in Darkness (Luchador Press), The Road to Perdition (Alien Buddha Press) and Sunshine Superman (Cyberwit), among others.

 

The Great Pause

Pam Clements

We measure out moments

in the great world beyond our doors:

 

gas for the car

curbside pickup – dog food, birdseed,

a walk for stretched legs.

 

“Do you have your mask?”

 

Driving out of the cemetery

with my dog,

I saw two acquaintances, Franciscan friars, walking

on opposite sides of the road from each other.

I stopped the car

waving wildly, scrambling for my mask.

We bellowed happy greetings,

wished each other safe and well,

commended each other 

to God.

 

Home cut hair,

stress baking,

a run on vegetable seeds,

return of the Victory Garden,

no mason canning jars to be found

in the county:

 

Who knew the Apocalypse

would feel so strange

and yet so ordinary?

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Pam Clements's creative nonfiction and poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals. She is also author of a book of poems, Earth Science. She retired from teaching medieval English literature at Siena College just in time for the pandemic to emerge.  As a result, she is enjoying the seemingly endless time to garden, play with her dog, and pursue nonacademic writing.

 

From the wreckage

D. Colin

I am less afraid of hell

after living through several

 

but I do fear

never escaping.

 

I’ve been trying to make

myself into the moon. Instead

 

I’ve chiseled me into a cage,

a collection of scabs I thought

 

I could use for thicker skin

so when the world falls apart

again, I am ready.

 

I have wrapped myself

in a loud kind of silence,

 

a jumbled quarantined

mess of language.

 

I thought this pain in my chest

was hunger but I think I have forgotten

 

the taste of my voice,

how I lick a word and press

 

it against my teeth

before it touches the air.

 

I’m still learning to care for myself

to free my face of this scream.

 

I am a gaping mouth made of bone

and afraid to die before

the poems leave my body.

D. Colin

D. Colin is is a poet, performer, visual artist and educator living in Troy, NY. She is the author of two poetry collections, Dreaming in Kreyol and Said the Swing to the Hoop. She is also a Cave Canem, VONA and New York State Writers Institute fellow. As a multidisciplinary artist, she aims to inspire, empower and educate through poetry, paint and performance and is passionate about cultivating space for stories, healing and community.  (photo by Robert Cooper)

www.dcolin.com   / facebook.com/poetdcolin / 

twitter.com/dcolinpoet / instagram.com/dcolinpoet

 

Now

Natalie Criscione

Long ago,

    on the Sunday night

before lockdowns,

 

     I wondered

If it would be

    her last.

 

Weeks passed

    and she adapted,

or, we did,

 

washing her

    as new lasts

slipped by,

 

carrying her to

the grass and

    holding her

 

during midnight,

    rain-soaked

wakings,

 

guiding her

to her food

    or water dish,

 

lowering her 

from couch

    to floor,

 

hearing laments

    broken

yet blithe.

 

We felt her morning

gaze of

    resignation,

 

stroked her

still soft,

    unhearing ears,

 

her body

curled

    and subdued...

 

    not the dog

she used

to be

 

but the one

she is 

    now.

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Natalie Criscione wears many hats: student, teacher, editor, volunteer, artist, apartment manager, birth supporter, and lifelong writer, to name a few.  She is a graduate of SUNY Albany’s School of Education and Colgate University where she studied writing with the late Fred Bush. Natalie lives in Albany with her husband, dogs, and their visiting adult  children.

 

Symptoms

John Delaney

Across the window, clouds slow-motion drift

against a backdrop beatific blue.

While the country suffers pandemic flu,

I guess I’m one of the fortunate few

who doesn’t need to dream to be uplift-

ed. Each day is a new phenomenon

of weather, place, and expectations.

So far the signs seems promising but cold;

I came ready to work.

                          Listen to John,

my innoculated friends. Grow old

from immunity, but embrace infections.

Show symptoms of something: make that your perk.

Life is contagious if you don’t ban it.

Be thankful you were made for this planet.

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John Delaney

In 2016, I moved out to Port Townsend, WA, after retiring as curator of historic maps at Princeton University. I’ve traveled widely, preferring remote, natural settings, and am addicted to kayaking and hiking. In 2017, I published Waypoints (Pleasure Boat Studio, Seattle), a collection of place poems. Twenty Questions, a chapbook, appeared in 2019 from Finishing Line Press.

 

Virus

Donna R. Dolan

So beautiful tricolor with its

 

Corona arms

 

But so deadly with its reach.

 

From a raging bat bite

 

To a peaceful lamb in

 

A busy marketplace.

 

From deep China across

 

Asia and Europe

 

To America.

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Donna R. Dolan is a retired librarian who got her BA and MLS from the University at Albany. She also worked there and at the New York State Library and at BRS, an online retrieval service. She has published widely in the field of online literature.

 

COVID Diary

Edward A. Dougherty

If the virus, when the virus

gets into the prison, he told us,

we’re helpless. And so,

he joined the bleaching detail.

 

 

When I touch my phone,

the number of cases

comes home to me.

As tests go out,

cases go up.

 

 

The corona’s a halo

of protein spikes,

like golf tees

stuck into a sphere.

The lipid shell

contains RNA,

an unusually large

tangle of codes

—like a brain

in its skull?—

enabling it

to develop

a wealth

of gene-

expression

strategies.

 

          ☼

 

Night frays. Wakefulness

peers through the open weave.

Then questions: instruments

with one string playing one note.

 

          ☼

 

Sign in a café window:

We’re closed. See you

after the tempest.

Enjoy the wind!

 

          ☼

 

The villain of this story, enemy

in this so-called war, is just

a wild creature, this virus—

another animal wanting to live.

 

          ☼

 

amid oak leaves

one crocus

 

gold-yellow sunspot

rising over earthtones

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Holed up in his home in the Finger Lakes region, Edward A. Dougherty is a writer whose latest publication is Journey Work: Crafting a Life of Poetry & Spirit essays on his own apprenticeship as a poet, his work as a volunteer for peace in Hiroshima, Japan, and his evolving spiritual commitments, and how these all emerge to assert mutuality: our shared human experience, which we can traffic in via empathetic imagination.

 

He also teaches at SUNY Corning Community College and has been granted the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity. 

https://edwarddougherty.wordpress.com/

 

Plague Year

Claire Frankel

Today I called

The New York Historical Society

Which had cancelled the Petraeus lecture

They asked me

Did I want to donate the cost of my tickets

Or did I want a refund.

Since they were first on my list

Of 6 venues for recouping plaguetime money

I said “Refund.”

 

I called five other venues

Met Opera (ABT)

New York City Ballet

Encore Performances

92nd Street Y

Streiker Center

And I got refunds.

Then I bought books on Amazon.

 

I may as well be living

In Kansas City, Mo

In Highland, NY

In East Yechupitsville

 

What is a City

Without its culture ?

Just another tumbleweed.

 

When this plague passes

In 2 months?

In 6 months?

In 12 months?

In 18 months?

Will we resurrect ourselves

Or will we be a different city?

I’m still not moving to the country.

There, it’s slow wifi

And all I can do is paint.

My painting is good

But it’s quite painful

Like this plague.

 

The first full day of Spring

The city birdies have been chirping all week

In the vines and bushes between

My building and the next.

They are courting

What do they know of

Coronavirus

In my next life,

I’ll  come back as

A robin red breast.

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Claire Frankel

I’m an engineer, although my degree is in Physics and Mathematics.  Even though most established companies were not hiring women in 1976, I got into the computer (I.T.) field after graduating from college, then, because the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was something of a ‘start-up’ and they needed everyone with skills. For the last 44 years, I have worked  designing financial industry databases.

 I have also been writing poetry since I learned what a poem was (about 60 years ago) and have just begun to publish them. During boring corporate meetings, coffee breaks, lunchtime and downtime, I wrote poetry. My first poem, ‘Deskbound’ was published in Oberon Magazine in 2019. My first chapbook, Plague Year Poetry, is available on amazon.com; My second chapbook, Working Woman Poetry, can be ordered directly from the publisher, finishinglinepress.com, or from amazon.com. I am currently at work on my next book - a full length book of poems, Between my City and my Hudson River Valley.

 

After the virus

Elizabeth Grisaru

On the day the plague lifts

her black skirts and passes over

farm and church, dark concert hall,

firehouse, beach shack, shopping mall

 

something stirring indeep shifts:

a sideways lurch, a stumble step,

like a sleeper shocked awake

falling from a dreamscape cliff.

 

On the day we watch her back

shrink to the black horizon line,

statesman, pauper, poet wait

for the same stirring nameless shape

 

uncoiling tendrils within the earth

sheltered from the shrieking wind

that chases out the scent of plague

and rattles doorways on their hinges.

 

On that day strange things emerge:

sleepers straining to escape a dream

pin pricks in the musty loam

a million pale and tender cells.

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Elizabeth Grisaru

I am originally from the Boston area, but have lived all my adult life in New York, the last 25 years in Albany. I work in State government on energy policy issues.

I started writing poetry a little over a year ago while I was walking through the corridor from the subway into Penn Station, on my way home after meetings in Manhattan, finished that first poem that night on the train, and find the words are still coming.

 

Bright star

Jill Grogan

The heart toys with emotions the mind remains unspoken the dusk defends us like people drifting apart.

feelings get lost, everything is tossed. The moon consumed the earth.

The hate tears apart everyone’s throat. Bright star is dimming I see it’s grasp on the sky.

Another stance is thinning. The sky is dusky grey.

the smell of rotted flowers on dirt roads. The sight of black wicked stems. the trees shadows are cold.

the brightest star it flickers and scorns the earth.

These dead feelings stripped my hearing. people gorge on their emotions. this moon steals my bitterness.

this land fulfills my emptiness. this night is the sound of life.

Counting my every strife.

Tonight is a reflection of every other day that passed, nothing really changed I’m still wearing this mask.

The bright star steals inner vein, it’s reflection in the blue tilled water, caused ripples that slowly drift away.

I’m missing, I’m not broken, I’m sorrowed, tonight’s choking.

Blue clouded in mourning.

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Jill Grogan

I’m 21 I’ve been writing since I was young. I started with short stories and two years ago I began writing poetry. I attend SUNY Orange for liberal arts. I’m from Wallkill, New York. I’ve always loved writing because it’s how I’ve always been able to express myself.

 

The Star

Kendall Hoeft

—After Edgar Degas’ L'Étoile

 

I.

This is not the Degas with hands crossed behind her back

and one timid, pointing toe.

This prima emerges alone

from a shattered cave of jagged blue and orange

where, perhaps, she got stuck long enough

to eat her own body from the desperation

and the question of where to get water when one has to shimmy like a newt

scraping skin spelunking, bloody as it’s rubbed; on and on and onward.

And when the headlight went out, she was left

desensitized, writhing the void.

In the isolation of herself

she could only breathe,

asking: where are you soul?

where am I?

 

II.

Snug in a rock tunnel,

no perception except internal vision—

imagination center, her solitary hope;

as real as any scientific fact.

 

III.

Hearing the probing drip of some distant stalactite,

she ebbed her way toward the promise of space,

cave crawling, catastrophizing, till she

came into the open, where

she suckled the hanging mineral like some fetal pig

suspended and needy—

like she could be cut out of a womb

or slid onto a metal slab for some posthumous dissection;

a group of chubby, pubescent boys

giggling over her sleeping body,

cracking into her thin skin.

 

IV.

Still somehow, and mystically, she arose—

continued after death,

a resurrected christ

internal system smack down

a body conquered

death defied in a way

you can’t ignore still I rise

and when she dances now

there is no place for hiding.

She knows the depth of the tomb—

it’s dry longing, the suffocation, burial,

mellow low notes sung

while she was under their feet.

 

V.

She eagles her arms long,

stretching, like she did to survive;

but now she floats

triumphant,

cocks her head back.

She’s in holy water

drifting, from the stony shore.

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Kendall Hoeft graduated from the University of Tampa’s Creative Writing M.F.A. program. She currently teaches writing online, for FIDM in San Francisco. Kendall was awarded the 2nd place prize in the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Contest and her poetry collection, Out of Water, was selected as a semifinalist for the 2019 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. Her recent poetry can be viewed in Bad Pony Magazine, Patient Sounds, Occulum, Anti-Heroin Chic, Leveler, Driftwood Press and on her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/kendallhoeftpoet

 

2020 Vision

Mary Judd

They say trauma can render us speechless. It can numb the imagination.

As the Corona virus spread,

silently, invisibly, randomly,

and as the world quieted and slowed, in one town after another,

and as my high-paced traveling came to a standstill

I expected myself to write fervently

To capture every morsel of this historic time

But my pen was slow.

An occasional doodle would include the word Pandemica

My own language seemed inadequate

Instagramatica emerged

As friends and family posted life events online, behind masks

A First Communion

First Day of School

New baby

New Fireman

Navy Commission

Zoom funerals

Election Day

Weddings

And then we saw George Floyd die

on television, online, again and again and again

And more than half a million, and counting, from Covid.

My new, age-old word became Guernica.

A name and a Picasso painting worth endless words…

 Guernica. It circled around my mind for days

And on one of those days I knew what I needed to do

To reflect the horror

The strengths

And to fuel my esperanza. (Hope)

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Mary Judd is a writer, artist, coach, and specialty program designer who loves to inspire others to connect to their strengths. Working with many leaders in field of Positive Psychology, Mary tapped her own strengths to co-found creative programs such as The Barn School (at Indian Ladder Farm) and SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a national program recently featured on PBS. Mary is a Colorado native who lived many years in Texas, and enthusiastically calls Upstate New York her forever home.

 

Put the Snowman Away

Samantha Ley

He’s waiting at the playground, during a snow flurry.
When I first trudge by, dragging two kids and sleds,
He’s purely a snowman
Three innocuous balls of snow
Later, my husband calls through the driving wind:
“Did you see this snowman?” he laughs, 
Like he does when something’s funny-weird,
Like we’re all going to have a lot of questions.
 
It’s hard to tell in the gray-white blur, but
As I approach, I see that the snowman has a face.
Not a snowman face,
A human face,
With thoughtfully shaped human-like nostrils,
Lined, plump lips,
A furrowed brow with inscrutable eyes
Not enough detail to notice from afar. Just enough to make you wonder 
How you didn’t see it from the start,
All on the top-most of 
three 
clean 
white 
balls of snow.
 
For days, we laugh and trade jokes about the cursed snowman, how:
 
He haunts the neighborhood children (maybe just the bad ones).
He is an ancient spirit, reincarnated near a municipal parking lot in Upstate New York.
He is the foreboding marker of yet another stage of this unending pandemic.
He is the manifestation of decades of children’s playground arguments.
He is an alien being, waiting to hitch an extraterrestrial ride home.
Frozen, he yearns for freedom.
 
A few days later, I bring my youngest daughter back,
Red-cheeked and open-eyed, she notices before I do:
 
“Where scary snowman go?
Someone put scary snowman away?”
 
And, she’s right. There is no trace.
 
Her voice pierces the cold, ripe with angst and her trademark insistence, lilting up at the
Ever-present question mark.
 
Staccato beats between each word,
Pausing to get each syllable just right:
 
“Someone. Put. Scary. Snowman. Uh-WAY?”
 
I will later share this with my husband.
He will quip, in the voice of the snowman:
 
“I have to go, my home planet needs me.” 
 
And again, we will laugh.
 
But just then, as I push my daughter on the swing, staring at the empty spot,
I picture not a tractor beam, but a nearby shed
Or a cold basement
Or a restaurant kitchen
With reduced seating capacity but a 
roomy walk-in freezer.
 
I picture him huddling, waiting,
Peering out from under thoughtful eyebrows,
Either someone put him away, 
Showing a kindness,
Erecting a shield,
Against the cruelty of humans towards that which is different
Or else, he galumphed there himself in the dark of winter.
 
Perhaps he doesn’t want to just melt away,
Perhaps he hopes to last until the first hints of spring cross the ground.
Perhaps he hopes to slip back outside
Slide through the mud, briefly feel warmth,
 
To see, with his heavy-lidded eyes,
The colorful heads of crocuses
The green corkscrews of pea shoots
And if he’s lucky,
The sprigs of carrot greens
Pushing and unfurling into spring. 

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Samantha Ley is a graduate of Kenyon College and the University of Virginia. Her writing has most recently appeared in Fairfield Scribes, Albany Poets, and Manifest-Station. “Put the Snowman Away” was originally published by Albany Poets. She currently lives near Albany, NY, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. 

 

Sometimes...

Maria Lisella

I pretend aging is a distant island
where broken birds go to recover, to practice
flying, to remember how to play. If it isn’t 
an island, it’s a country with one eye
opened, the other shut, barring reality 
from taking over the show. Reader’s Digest,
stalwart of mediocrity, started it all with
Hi, I’m Joe’s Heart, as if giving a body part
a script would shed wisdom on the inevitable
passage of time, how to roll it back, keep it
treading water. And now, a pandemic; 
and aging has become an aspirational goal. 

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Maria Lisella was named a Poets Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets in 2020.
Her collections include Thieves in the Family (NYQ Books), Amore on Hope Street, (Finishing Line Press) and Two Naked Feet (Poets Wear Prada). Recent work appears in Big City Lit, MomEgg Review, New Verse News and Shrew. She is a travel writer by profession, co-curates the Italian American Writers Association readings, and contributes to Never Stop Traveling, The Jerusalem Post and the online bilingual La Voce di New Yorkhttps://marialisella.contently.com/

 

Starve

Brian Liston

I starve

for community,

connection

the dull routine

I took for granted.

 

I starve

for the usual,

to see the world

relaxed, at ease

enriching collective

outlook on the future.

 

I starve

for the arts

hoping for it to save me

from protocols; restrictions

confining me

inside a box

I wish to escape from.

 

I starve

until the oasis

shows itself

to us all

in its time

allowing us to

return, reunite

be refreshed to

a brand new world.

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Brian Liston 

I am a graduate of The Center for Spectrum Services, Saugerties High School, and SUNY Ulster. My poems have been in Chronogram, and my signature poem, "The Autistic Superkid," was published in Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers as well as my own chapbook, Through Autistic Eyes

I have been a featured reader in the Hudson Valley, most notably the defunct Cross Street Atelier, The Cubbyhole in Poughkeepsie and the Colony Cafe in Woodstock, the Mudd Puddle and the Woodstock Poetry Society. I document my life experience on the blog, The Autistic SuperBlog.  

 

Breathing in

David Litwak

drowning in a sea of air

throat closing with each

new breath

too much

too often

gushing into lungs that

haven’t pumped

hard since their first

breaths now trying to keep up

trying to hold back

the rush

the panic the sweat

the sweetness of the air

swelling around them

 

 

the hand of god reaching

down and shutting upon

my mouth

clamping down

the very breath

inhaled those many years before

down upon my mouth

take back my breath

down like a ramming rod

a strength i

can’t resist

taking back the life

i can no longer lead

 

pushing back

taking back,

back

the air

evacuating my lungs

sweeping out into the night

while i am so tired

my voice can no longer sing

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David Litwak

I have lived in the Hudson Valley for many years working as a writer and editor. After spending a long career writing, editing as well as developing many magazines I have returned to my first love - poetry. Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on a new collection.

 

Road greys

Gary J. Maggio

the drabness of the dirt and wet leaves

over the bridge to Fenway Park,

thick strong couples in dark Sox caps holding

hands, the chill and warmth of

the city in September, Boston autumn 

and the Sox out of it

but everyone is kind of in

college, Harvard is kind of in

masks, as is MIT and

BU and BC, the young are coming

and going, the Yankee greys are

in town, seeking normalcy,

diamonds that glitter with dust and

lush autumn grass and

we are all winners, there’s no

grey or blue White or Black

south or north dead or living

there are no losers

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Poet, actor, and teacher Gary Maggio began writing poems when he was accepted into John Montague’s poetry workshop at the NYS Writers Institute in 1999. In the early 2000s, he created the Capital Region Poets Workshop, which met twice a month for over eight years.

He has also worked as an actor in the Albany area for the last decade, performing at Cap Rep, Curtain Call Theatre, Theatre Voices, Homemade Theater and Albany Civic Theatre. He works part-time as a “standardized patient” at Albany Medical College, acting for and teaching communications to medical students and residents

You can read more of Gary's poems and see his artwork at gmagikman.com.

 

Vexation

Dawn Marar

When Hani walked out of Walgreen’s

nothing in his demeanor signaled victory.

 

Comorbidities rested on his shoulders 

as they always did, like military braids. 

 

I leapt from the car, thrust open my hands 

like Minnie Mouse. Well…?!! 

 

He smiled, nodded, and I felt like the girl 

he married in Amman forty years ago--the same 

 

day the Americans were released in Tehran.

Each step my Beloved took upon the slush 

 

parking lot puddle set in motion

the 8,409,600 breaths I’d held 

 

hostage over the past year.

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Dawn Marar’s recent work appears in Barzakh: A Literary Magazine and The Hong Kong Review. Her chapbook, Efflorescence, was published by Finishing Line Press. She was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Orison Anthology of Poetry Awards.

Her website is http://www.dawnmarar.weebly.com and her new project is a poetry workshop, “Moving Beyond Bloc-Whiteness.”

 

For a friend who is dying

Joan McNerney

Even though oceans

have been charted

mountaintops marked

there are no words

for your pain.

 

All the stratosphere

of heaven climbed yet

there is no course

through human sorrow.

 

Every muscle counted

and every bone but

no formula was written

for your grief.

 

In languages of

languages chromosomes

numbered named.  What

can be said to your

sorrow, your pain?

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Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, journals and anthologies too numerous to mention.  She has four Best of the Net nominations.  Her latest titles are The Muse in Miniature and Love Poems for Michael both available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net

 

I No Longer Believe in the (State) Science

Robert Milby

There is a Crow, who arrived several weeks ago.                                                                                        

He sits atop nearby houses, watching.                                                                                                          

Hidden in green, deciduous foliage:                                                                                               

condescending, chortling through the looking glass.

                                                                                    

He was recently stricken silent,                                                                                                                         

as two Vultures appeared to raid a Robin’s nest,                                                                                                    

obscured on a rafter, in the old, Victorian barn.                                                                                               

We tried to chase them away, as we watched their attempted pillage. 

 

One Vulture is Fauci, the other, Gates.                                                                                                            

They often wake just before dawn,                                                                                                            

when the baby birds are still asleep;                                                                                                            

parents are out seeking food, and children are alone.

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Robert Milby of Florida, NY, been reading his poetry in public, since March, 1995.  He is the author of several chapbooks, books, and CDs of poetry, and hosts four Hudson Valley poetry readings series in the Hudson Valley. Milby served as Orange County, NY Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2019.

www.robertmilbypoetry.com 

 

In Between

Siniša Milenković 

There are things seen, sometimes in a dream, glanced through a prism between thoughts, the empty spaces between words on a page, the glints of dust through sunlight. 

The vastness of the midnight broken by the streak of stars across the endless sky. 

The emptiness I feel is not real, because Nature abhors a vacuum and I just can’t see all that’s in front of me, not even all the stars on the darkest night. 

Instead I glimpse the things in between, the memories in my  mind’s eye. 

Just a ghost, in the streets, on the train, passing through strangers eyes the way reflections on storefronts shadow the passerbys.

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My name is Siniša Milenković, my friends call me Sin.

I was born in former Yugoslavia and first came to the US for a summer to Asbury Park, NJ, in 1973. Back then Asbury Park was the Coney Island of the Jersey shore, full or rides, attractions and people. I thought this was America, better than any TV or film, only to return six months later to Albany, NY, no rides, seashore or attractions, just life like anywhere in the world. This transition, the first of many in 55 years, is part of my story.

 

Quarantine

Ambrosia Montague

(The days are endless, really) 

Last week it was the clothes,

a lonely pile in the corner of the laundry room,

And washing the walls because it is the first week of June-

(Or something like that).

Monday, I did my makeup

And paid the bills for a world that doesn't quite exist

Except on Netflix, and

Tuesday, I sat, perched in front of my window,

Blue acrylic paint on the pads of chewed-up fingers,

Wrapped around a usual coffee and cigarette,

Even though I shouldn’t smoke- 

(Or something like that)

Yesterday,  I danced in sock feet and a t-shirt,

Sam Cooke on repeat

Sam Cooke on repeat

And right before the sun went down...

We fired up the grill,

Seasoned fat, red chunks of steak.

Wrapped bright, yellow cobs of corn in packets of foil,

With too much butter.

And I mentioned that I might start writing again-

(Or something like that)
 

Ambrosia Montague

Ambrosia Montague is a graduate of the University at Albany. A lover of coffee and late-night writing sessions, she resides in the Capital Region with her three children. 

 

How to Make Time Move

Amy Nedeau

March, 2020-2021:

 

Drive, north, on mostly empty roads, past a mostly empty Walmart parking lot. This will be the most disturbing and abnormal thing you see.

 

Read, The Road, Station Eleven, anything apocalyptic, preferably listening through headphones while on walking paths as you don’t know how you’re supposed to engage with people anymore.

 

Welcome Zoom meetings. They are fine until they’re not, when faces on a screen become fictionalized like the Netflix shows you binge watch. And as much as you think you know a character and their lives by watching, they will never be a friend.

 

Eat like the food in the house wasn’t meant to be a stockpile. Then order takeout to support local and tip more than usual hoping a few more dollars will cure a substantial problem. Eat on a patio when it’s warm as a way of pretending everything is normal again.

 

Check your inbox - “Sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for,” in nearly every email whose subject line brings hope for half a second.

 

Hike for miles, and think about that emailed phrase, as if a person is something someone hunts for in the woods, like ginseng or truffles, rare finds that bring a profit. Find the top of the mountain through trails marked by others whose names you’ll never know, and scan the lake, buildings, roads through binoculars and wonder what it is you’re searching for through their lenses.

 

Go to a funeral. Cover your nose and frown, hug briefly and infrequently. Go to a micro wedding. Go to a drive-through baby shower. Say you’re trying to remember how to interact with people when you do something awkward. Later realize you should have said: I’m trying to learn how to interact with people now.

 

Notice the school bus once it starts coming again and wonder what the kids sporting their child-sized masks adorned with their favorite characters must be thinking.

 

Watch neighbors you’ve never seen before walk around the block, coaxed outside by puppies and strollers. Watch the mailman, then the FedEx truck, UPS in the evening.

 

Find podcasts that provide the same friendship fallacy as TV shows. Smother the lack of voices with recorded ones.

 

Be alone, be alone, be alone, and question every time anyone used the adjective lonely before.

 

Daydream, try to plan for anything while accounting for the disorientating lack of awareness of where the world will be positioned by the time anything you planned for arrives. Hope time will naturally slow when the things you’ve longed for return. Remember the problems you thought you had a year before and realize they were manufactured.

 

Wait for sunny days, then wait for them to pass when they come.

It goes: a slow imprint, a fast shift,
a stop, a start, a continuation,
current on a body of water. You may have a raft but no control.

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Amy Nedeau graduated from the University at Albany with degrees in English and Anthropology. She was a participant in the 2019 NYS Writers Institute Community Writers Workshop. Amy grew up in Buffalo and currently resides in Waterford.

 

Symphony of Sounds

Leslie B. Neustadt

I

 

I imagine the vibrato of thousands

of ventilators around the world.

 

Whoosh click. Whoosh click. Whoosh click.

A universal language. People played

 

like instruments in a dark symphony,

orchestrated by an unseen conductor.

 

The steady sounds of a mechanical voce di petto—

Thousands of lungs unable on their own to take

 

in air and release it. Whoosh click. Whoosh click.

The steady rhythm moves air in and out

 

and in again. Heart monitors sing higher

notes, the heart’s steadfast hum.

 

If it sputters, the monitor alarm trumpets.

If ventilators oscillate, if a patient’s breath

 

wavers, or they clog like wind instruments,

a clarinet cries. Doctors and nurses hidden

 

behind protective gear rush in to play

an obligato, without which the music

 

cannot continue. They don’t want to play

a coda. Don’t want to hear a requiem.

 

But ventilators lament—despite their best

efforts, they cannot breathe life. Their ostinato,

 

their repeated rhythms, not enough to heal lungs.

The snare drums roll. The death knell resounds.

 

II

 

It’s almost half a century since my mother

lay tethered to a ventilator. She not much

 

past fifty. The whoosh click, whoosh click still

plays in my dreams. I sat by her side, begged

 

her to wake. Sang her, You are My Sunshine

as she had sung to me. No lullaby could stir her.

 

She fought the ventilator. Needed to be anesthetized

so she wouldn’t buck it’s insistent rhythm.

 

The ventilator unable to sing her back to life,

though it moved air through her lungs. After months,

 

my siblings and I set her free. I still hear her requiem

in the ICU. Now, no families allowed to sing

 

to their beloveds. To hold their motionless hands.

Thousands bid goodbye by doctors and nurses hidden

 

behind masks, who sing them a coda. Rush

to the next patient in the ICU. Da capo el fine.

Leslie B. Neustadt

 Poet and visual artist Leslie B. Neustadt is a retired New York Assistant Attorney General and former board member of the International Women's Writers Guild. The author of Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey, Leslie’s work is illuminated by her Jewish upbringing, commitment to social justice and gender equality, and her experiences as a woman, daughter, wife, mother, and cancer patient. Online at www.LeslieNeustadt.com.

 

Transmission

Stephanie Nolan

To: my family

From: my white, air-tight capsule orbiting Sol 1

 

how are you?

it’s good to hear your crackling voice on the radio

I’ve been putting 0s and 1s in the right order

scooping fertilizer on my plants

peering out at the sun when I have the chance.

 

I don’t go outside anymore – there’s only darkness outside my door.

oh, you do venture out?

Did you know that there are living creatures in the air? That want to do you harm?

Did you know that earth’s a swarm?

That half of the population is being worked to the bone and the other half stays at home?

 

I don’t really know what’s going on …

I’ve been tuning in while revolving around the sun

I don’t often, though – Earth’s spinning far away

Wait, did someone say he’d rule the world, but he wasn’t a leader?

let me know when you have one and I’ll take my new friends to meet her.

 

oh, I’m fine!

breathing the same air as last March

marching in chaotic ellipses

I stopped being able to feel eight months ago

It’s hard to sleep with fake gravity

no, no, I don’t leave my capsule without a tether, don’t worry

my bones are weak, but I love you

I love you

I miss you

 

Wait! I’ve done all this research and … did you know? That light is > time?

 

Or was it time > light?

 

oh, time to go. I’m sorry.

when I get these 1s and 0s in order, I’ll blast home.

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Stephanie Nolan is a bisexual fantasy writer and poet originally from upstate New York. She is quite possibly descended from a long line of Adirondack elves. attended the Troy Poetry Workshop with D. Colin.

 

Dear Humility

Roberta Obermayer

3/29/2021       

 

Dear Humility/Humanity

re: This recent Insanity,

 

It has only now just occurred to me as I have been forwarding Trolley's open submission opportunity to a few Dear Friends, that I may write something too concerning what I affectionately refer to as "This Fucking Pandemic" aka "The Year of a Million Tears" aka "The Year of Making Lemonade."  As I prepare to move for the fourth time in less than a year, I realize this may be the perfect time to assess or to reassess my own progress...my own process of navigating these historic and unprecedented days in The Insanity of Our Humanity.  BTW- I believe it is time to change two words that I have used thus far-

 

     #1 History- Time to Change this word to "Ourstory" because it's not just "his."

     #2 Humanity- Time to change this word too...since "Hupeopleity" just doesn't sound right, I am open to suggestions from You.

 

I begin with my list of Lessons Learned.

#1- One Cannot Outrun Ignorance

Ignorance surrounds us.  Ignorance lives within each of us.  I have spent this year attempting to outrun this simple Truth and I ended up right back where I began.  Like the song says "The killer in me IS the killer in You."

#2- "The Will To Believe" W. James

 

Pretty sure W. James got this right...Belief IS an act of Will.  Last March when the death toll hit 400 in Italy overnight, I began to weep uncontrollably and as I witnessed the spread of this pandemic across the world my weeping became as relentless as the spread of the virus itself.  Many days I wished I was not alive to witness this but I learned and am still learning that...

I can Choose to See all that is Good and/or all that is Horrific BUT

 

It FEELS BETTER to See all that is GOOD.  It FEELS BETTER to BELIEVE that what we are witnessing is 

THE SUM OF OUR HUMANITY

 AMID CALAMITY    

ARISE, ARISE

 

#3- The Lesson of NOW 

Tomorrow is never promised for any of us.  What seems important to me today is what I DO with this NOW.  I find myself becoming more focused on what is most important to me....Family, Friends, Art and Nature....these are the things which give my life MEANING.  NOW is The Time for each of us to Leave Our Mark.

 

#4- Expect The Unexpected 

Just when I think things cannot possibly get more Bizarre, They Do! January 6th Capitol Coup is just one example for you.

 

#5- What is TRUTH?

Science is in FLUX...WTF!  I have learned that we are all learning each day and that within the concept of "Fake News" there is Something GOOD which is to QUESTION EVERYTHING just as Socrates taught long ago and leads directly back to Lesson #2.

 

     In conclusion, although I currently find myself without a place to call my own home, The Spirit within will not be defeated.  This year has made me more Empathetic, more Compassionate, more Angry, more Determined, more Sober, more Humble ( I Hope), more Resilient, more GRATEFUL, more LOVING than I could have ever imagined...and, after all, Love IS Eternal...LOVE LIVES.

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Roberta Obermayer

Graduate of Vermont College MFA in Poetry, 1999

Tutorial with Robert Creeley at SUNY Buffalo

Attended several poetry workshops at NYS Writers Institute

Interview with Robert Creeley in The American Poetry Review

Poems published in Ekphrasis, Passages North, Half Tones to Jubliee, Pasco Arts Council.

 

In the beginning

Susan Oringel

                                                                      nothing was safe.

I remember fearing even the air, miasma, “mal aria.”

And if I went outside for a walk, or to my once-weekly

mail pick-up at the office, I’d spray the door knobs, light switches

with Lysol.  They told us to, to kill the virus on the places

we most touched.  Streaks still stand on the walls like dried tears,

the brass door knobs tarnished.  And everything

brought inside, was deemed contaminated, the newspaper in its

plastic sleeve, packages and letters, food from the “outside”

whose wrappings had to be sprayed or “cured” for days

in the garage, so that the virus might die.

 

We didn’t go in stores but ordered food from a service.

Unknown helpers picked out unripe fruit, wrong cuts

of meat, brought two pint-containers of grated Parmesan cheese

when we had asked for the advertised Eggplant Parm.

No picking up a little this or that or a mostly prepared meal

to be embellished at home. I snatched recipes from the internet,

the newspaper, somehow not having the energy

to go through my collection of cookbooks. 

 

There were smashing successes and many failures.

Two quarts of lightly burned soup still sit in the freezer.

Casseroles seemed to fill the emptiness best.

 

I’d thought we’d be fucking like bunnies with all our time

at home, but Mark was sure that he’d catch the virus

and then diabetes and heart disease would finish him.

And I kept worrying how we would get the food we wanted,

the tools we needed, light bulbs, hooks, nails, toilet paper, napkins.  

Paper goods were rationed. And what about my arcane supplements?

 

Out of our loneliness we made friends with the birds who visited

our backyard feeder.  The black-and-white-checked downy woodpecker. 

The fiery red cardinal visiting with his drab wife, who sported

loud red lipstick.  The mourning doves we called Fred and Ethel

and a flock of tufted titmice.  In the kitchen I rooted avocado pits

for trees, rooted sweet potato eyes to make more plants. In spring

we made friends with the budding trees on our walks, the lacy, spiky

red maple buds and flowers whose red spikes reminded us of COVID.

We were--can you see? --a bit obsessed.  Depressed.

 

Our friendships had become two-dimensional.  On ZOOM heads looked

and sounded like our friends, but they weren’t—quite.  Many days I was

too tired to talk to anyone on the phone.  Our boy cat howled for attention,

day and night.  So, we got him a playmate, a beautiful gray and orange girl

with a harlequin face who trilled and loved to play.  But out of nowhere

our old neutered boy tried to hump her, grunting and grinding like

some awful lounge lizard.  We refereed until she fought back.

 

Three people dear to me were diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.

And as the pandemic wore on, we all learned to live with what we could not control.

Susan Oringel

Susan Oringel

I am a poet and writer, a teacher of creative writing, and a psychologist in private practice in the NYS Capital District. My chapbook My Coney Island was published by Finishing Line Press in June 2019. 

A graduate of the Warren Wilson M.F.A. program, I have published in various journals, such as Blueline, The Maryland Poetry Review, and the National Council of Teachers of English English Journal.   A story is forthcoming in Tiferet Journal, Spring 2021.

I also served as co-translator for a collection of Latin American poetry:  Messengers of Rain, published by Groundwoods Press in 2002 and 2011.  Fellowships and awards include Individual Artist award from the Albany-Schenectady League of Arts, a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, and an SOS award sponsored by NYSCA. I taught creative writing at Hudson Valley Community College from 2004-2017.

 

'Twas

Alexander Perez

Merry Christmas to the believers

if you believe Jesus could fix this mess

 

but I’ll take the gift anyway

 

I couldn’t find the Christmas Star

lost as a Magi, I searched for the holy one

 

You could say the Star is two heavenly bodies kissing

but now Jupiter and Saturn must be tested

 

>>>Back off!       Six feet from this poem!          It germinates>>>

 

The fallen snow returns skyward as vapour

I don’t dare breathe it in unless masked

 

They thought vapours caused the Black Death

now we face Black death on the regular

 

Not only nature causes plague

it’s poverty, slavery, war

man-made

 

I apologize for my Christmas poem

it’s been quarantined a year

not used to being exposed

it wants to know if truth’s contagious

 

Not sure to whom to send good tidings:

the dead

the dying,

the living,

or the being born?

 

I don’t think we’ll ever be the same

 

Funny, as a child, I had

gifts   candy   song

 

I wished for peace on earth

and oddly, my wish didn’t come true

 

My Christmas dream returns

anxious

wrapped in red-stained fur

                                              stomping on the rooftop

 

 

The Yule log burns brighter than a holocaust

Hope is on a ventilator, breathing its last breath

 

The ward nurse 

recites

as we take our

nightly psych meds:

 

“Happy Christmas

to all

to all

a good night.”

 

December 25, 2020

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Alexander Perez (named after his paternal grandfather Alejandro) is a queer, bipolar, non-gender conforming, addicted, traumatized cancer and domestic abuse survivor who doubles as an administrative assistant for the University at Albany. And one who sometimes finds the words.

 

Heading to School for Summer Cleaning during Covid-19

Lucyna Prostko

“... to break down the thing that is you.”

Garrett Kurai from “Know No Boy”

Heading down to school, 

listening to the news

of a storm turned tornado 

that might or might not strike, 

I prepare myself for the fragments

of an old self.  She will be

strolling down the empty hallways, 

painted blue, orange, and green.  

And then, the mute piles of papers, 

unreturned folders, bookmarked 

passages from “Self-Reliance,” smiling-

face doodles and cross-outs,

all scattered on my desk

waiting to be cleaned.  

I imagine the frazzled 

silhouettes of students, 

in their box-like

rooms, leaning into the mirrors

of their screens, longing

to touch something beyond

the chatter and silence,

or the misty web

of fear.   

The click-click

of an absent-minded

keyboard.  Concerning

the future, I must not

ruminate for too long.

Turn the key, step over 

the edge of a doorway:

the smell of new lilacs

struggles to fill the stunned 

square of absence,

the maple outside unfurls 

its sorrows and hand-shaped leaves.

Lucyna Prostko

Lucyna Prostko, a Polish-American poet, received her M.F.A. at New York University, where she was awarded the New York Times Fellowship, and her PhD in English from the University at Albany.

Her poetry appeared in various literary journals, including Fugue, Washington Square, Painted Bride Quarterly, Quiddity, Ellipsis, Salamander, Cutthroat, One Jacar Press and Five Points. Her first book of poems Infinite Beginnings was a winner of Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. She lives in the Adirondacks.

 

We circle each other, avoidant

Laura Rappaport

We circle each other, avoidant.

Middle-aged mother, stripling son, alone together in our pandemic house. Snow falls.

He who used to orbit me as though I were the sun, crow like Peter Pan, wait for my approving glance or touch on the cheek, now offers a fist bump for a hug and patters away to his home underground.

Head buried in handheld device as though it were the last sweet acorn, or a signed Mike Trout rookie card.

Looks not up nor meets my eye when we speak.

Silent, surly, salty, he spins away. Yet remains home -- nowhere to go this afternoon or any afternoon this year. No Lost Boys to meet or pirates to fight.

After supper:

Again a device is a magnet, this one larger, on his desk to complete a task due as they all are now at 11:59. Not to be turned in when the bell rings, for there is no bell.

(No hallways to roam, no lunchroom to navigate, friends to jostle in the rush to class.

No. Now just roll out of bed, boot up for lessons that will dissipate as soon as the screen closes.)

So close, yet so distant. It’s the natural way of things.Teenage son on the cusp of manhood leans toward friends, away from mother.

I wash the dishes pondering his future, nostalgic for my own youth, when it was out, out, out after dinner. Into the arms of friends, to town, the woods, the park.

I yearn for normalcy for this boy, my boy, the sun about whom I have orbited these eighteen years, basking in the glow of his love, the joy of his crowing.

As night falls and forces of nature pull him away from me, he has nowhere to go.

But down to the basement to gather with his own band of boys in cyberspace, the town square of this strange, strange year.

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Laura Rappaport is a writer, editor, and mother of two young adults who lives in Saratoga Springs. She lost her job due to Covid-19 in April 2020, about when her kids were sent home from college and high school. She counts it as a bit of hard work a lot of fairy dust that she is gainfully re-employed, and her kids have handled this uncertain time with as good an attitude as they could muster.

 
 

Pisces

Cheryl A. Rice

Papery arms creped and bubbled

not the only signs-

Air around, no vapor to be found, 

vipers kiss lungs untouched, 

thirst tempered by sip here, 

sip there, bottomless satisfaction. 

Father guppy, soundless gulp in the open clouds;

Mother seal, sensual carcass steaming onshore, 

grey body housing remnants of long, matriculated winter. 

 

It’s years since she’s seen a real ocean, 

felt waves shift her position in shuttling sand.

Many creatures native to water cannot swim. 

Long enough gone to forgive the tides, 

back and forth of the moon’s obedient masters. 

The turtle’s neck, slowly exposed at every meal, 

hers now, too, better to swing droplets of disbelief away.

 

Pisces represents with two fish, side by side yet 

swimming away from each other, two halves 

of the same pulling apart, two organs 

taken from her side, revenge, 

force, or subconscious conflict. 

Deep soil fades into time’s silver debris. 

Sailing thru life’s not possible 

for creatures born of voyage, 

but a year’s worth of tobacco

crumbled onto their prismatic scales

hides no gift. 

 

Morning’s urination, sluice gates between fins 

open like a salmon river, rush to 

meet the mating’s other, 

birth and death both in the end,

no other way possible. 

 

A mermaid’s tears invisible 

in the grand scheme of oceans, 

monopolize the earth’s majority. 

Bitter, without color or cue, 

they dribble down gills, face, 

built to dissolve hope,     

bring back moisture of tadpoles

asleep in their egg sacks, unawares. 

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Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Rye Whiskey Review, Up The River, and Misfit Magazine, among others. Recent books include Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed, and Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press). Her blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The Lockdown Rules

Carol J. Scamman

Hey, Lockdown Ladies!
Go paint your faces
What for? 
Just in case
Mr. Right’s at the door
And his stare demands more
Sugar, time to get dressed
You’ve got to look your best
Don’t say this is sexist!
Now quickly, don your masks!
Face masks won’t protect us!
They do too! Breathe! Don’t gasp,
Look for fat-wallet guys
Bait them with hungry eyes
You can “pretend” to yield
Slowly--raise your face shields
Make sure they got the jab
Before you “let” them grab
Don’t matter if he’s vaxxed
Shut up! Now quit the sass!
If he hates the measure
Don’t give him no pleasure
But don’t forget, Sweethearts,
You date ‘em six feet apart!

Carol J. Scamman

Carol J. Scamman graduated from Grove City College (1975) and earned her MLS at the University at Albany (1976). She has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana, and Texas. While working as a librarian for 39 years, she published the creative nonfiction pieces, Road Tests of Covered Wagons, Sassparilly, and The Dirty Dozen of Wagon Packing, Or Do Leave Home Without Them in The West That Was, ed. Thomas W. Knowles and Joseph R. Lansdale, Wings Books (1993). She also co-authored several peer-reviewed academic publications. Her love of travel has taken her to Canada, Mexico, Peru, England, Scotland, Switzerland, and France.

 

There Is Intimacy In Shared Experience

Fatima Shah

During my first hour of 2021, I think about generational trauma.

 

My family survived the 1947 Partition of India.

Collective trauma can sometimes become collective healing,

operative words being “can” and “sometimes.”

 

If a generation can pass down trauma, can the entirety of a species? Sometimes? Always?

 

Held together by the universality of breathing, masks on our faces, holding our exhales close to our chests, not letting them venture far, not safe to share the same air as the people we love.

 

We used to share so much more than oxygen.

 

Turned inwards, alone for months; restricted to our most intimate connections.

(Families, roommates, clandestine lovers, other trauma bonding companions.)

 

This year has been hardest on friendship.

 

Friends, and friends of our friends, and partners of our friends. Friendly coworkers, idle acquaintances who would invite us to get coffee, go to a concert, dinner, game night.

 

Constant, daily, background hum of human contact,

casual interactions on sidewalks, smiles across the street.

 

I miss things I don’t even want to admit I miss.

 

Mandatory faculty meetings, overcrowded malls,

even bars full of drunk people I couldn’t stand,

obligatory handshakes at awkward events.

 

Maybe I just miss experiencing the full range of my own humanity.

 

We do not understand what we will have survived after this.

 

Indelible seeds are being painted upon our bodies,

invisible in the persevering darkness.

 

Resting before germinating,

getting ready to reveal themselves

in an eventual light of day.

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Fatima Shah uses the process of writing to pull together her dozens of seemingly disparate interests, ideas, and identities. Weaving musings about her personal healing journey with weirdly elaborate science metaphors and unexpected rants about capitalism, she unapologetically brings her whole self to everything she creates. (Social media: @jasminegeekface on Twitter and Instagram. Website: www.fatimadoesnothing.com.Patreon: www.patreon.com/jasminegeekface)

 

The politician

Courtney Stern

Air trapped in a bubble

Caught in a storm

The oceans rips

The clouds cover in despair

The rest of the US

Silent anger revenge

Horns loud and clear

Flags unite

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Courtney Stern

I enjoy reading and writing in my free time. I just adopted a puppy (Shepherd/husky mix) from a rescue shelter, who we named, Bella. I also love swimming, cooking, and trying new things. While COVID was extremely tough, I always liked to look for the positive silver lining, such as less traffic and more time to read and write 😊.

 

A Covid Prayer

Sally Valentine

Let me remember, Lord,

in days and years to come,

that the sun didn’t refuse to shine

(except on certain days)

and winter blew into spring,

and spring bled into summer,

and Jesus was still raised from the dead,

and we still flew our flags on the Fourth of July,

 

and the faithful hummingbird returned

to hover in the pink and maroon blossoms

of the rose of Sharon bush

that sits outside my kitchen window,

nourishing us both.

Sally Valentine

Sally Valentine is a graduate of UAlbany, class of ‘71. After teaching math for twenty-five years, she went off on a tangent of poetry. She is the author of There Are No Buffalo in Buffalo, an award winning book of poetry for mid-grade kids. Each of the poems is about a different place in NYS. She is also the author of a series of mid-grade novels, each set in a different landmark in Rochester, her hometown.

 

A Pandemic Irony

Julene Waffle

Sea turtles spend most of their lives alone

swimming oceans, searching for food. They live

50 years in solitary submersion.

Alone, by choice, they see the world through waves.

 

What was not natural

was being 96, swimming in loneliness,

waving to grown children

through nursing home windows, living in fear.

 

Children staring at computer screens

learning to navigate the ocean of their futures

without sails, without rudders,

without hands on oars.

 

Governors closing businesses,

farmers dumping tanks of milk in gutters,

people losing jobs, being labeled non-essential.

five million lives lost.

 

But the sun still rose and set;

the tides still rolled.  The earth

still wound her way around the sun.  Crops

still embraced the sky while our lives

 

crawled cautiously to standstill.

No soccer games. No drama club.  No choir.

No travel.  No birthday parties.  No sleepovers.

No eating out.  Those seemed small prices to pay.

 

And so loneliness dragged from summer

into long and empty winter.

But in that space--in that expanse--

there was something.  There was time:

 

Time to focus on children, play board games, play outside.

Time to talk to trees and listen for their responses.

Time for phone calls, zoom calls, calls to write letters.

Time to craft, to bird watch, to ride bikes,

 

to read for pleasure, to take long baths.

Time to declutter and find lost things.

Time to self-educate, self-evaluate.

Time to exercise. Time to think.

And now what was normal before

looks something like old normal again.

Baseball games are scheduled.

Brides confirm wedding guests.

 

Children are sitting in classrooms.

Fitness centers and diners have reopened,

Vaccines settle into our immune systems,

invisible shields.  And we are happy

 

for the return to something familiar,

for feeling safer. But

I can't help the undercurrent

running under the loss and waste of it all.

 

No matter how much I want to return to familiar shores,

a part of me longs for the quiet and time just to be.

Also published in American Writers Review: Pandemic Collection. San Fedele Press (2021).

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Julene Waffle is a teacher in a rural NYS public school, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother of three busy boys, and a writer. Her work has appeared in La Presa and The English Journal, among other journals, and in the anthologies Civilization in Crisis and Seeing Things, and a chapbook So I Will Remember.  She has found solace in writing, nature, and her family during the pandemic. You can learn more at www.wafflepoetry.com.

 

Just another pandemic Sunday

Ellen White Rook

             light traffic

eyes half on the road

I notice a man looking

at a car through his phone

a man with a black

watch cap

trim build

dark clothes

             beside him

on the asphalt walk

a laid-down unicycle   

rainforest green

             he must be

taking a picture

of the small sedan

two doors

an ordinary blue

simply parked

             I pass too quickly

to catch the motion

of the thumb’s press

such a subtle move

             he wears glasses

with metal frames

that whisper around the lens

             the spokes

are invisible

everything hazed

with salt

         I am most likely

captured as I pass

our splintered time

intersecting

like the distant

beginning chord

of a once popular

song

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Ellen White Rook is a poet and teacher of contemplative arts living in upstate New York and southern Maine. In the pre-COVID-19 world, she offered workshops on Japanese flower arranging and led day-long 'Sit, Walk, Write' retreats that merge meditation, movement, and writing. Like most people, she’s wondering, what’s next? Ellen is a recent graduate from the Master of Fine Arts program at Lindenwood University and a member of the New York State Institute Poet’s Workshop. Her work has been published in Montana Mouthful, New Verse News, and previous editions of Trolley Literary Journal.

 

Easter Sunday

Dan Wilcox

The painted stones left along 

the path around the pond

are some child’s isolation project

like Babson’s carved boulders

in Cape Ann’s Dogtown

one even says “Courage”

but Roger Babson

would not have known

this child’s blue & green

& red stone’s protest

“Social Distancing Sucks”

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Although Dan Wilcox once worked as a dishwasher & as a short-order cook, he has never driven a cab, or played professional baseball. For most of his career he worked as bureaucrat & wrote poetry.  He was named one of the 2019 Literary Legends by the Albany Public Library Foundation.  He claims to have “the World’s largest collection of photos of unknown poets.” Currently he organizes poetry events in Albany, NY & is an active member of Veterans For Peace.